Over the last few years, a new type of performer has come forth, usually named by fans as the “Sad Indie Girl.” Usually quiet with devastating lyrics, one prominent act every year since 2019 has exploded in popularity — Billie Eilish, then Phoebe Bridgers, then Olivia Rodrigo. But 2022 left the fandom with a big question mark: Ethel Cain seemed too conceptual (and a little less well-known), no one tuned into GAYLE’s songs other than her angry alphabetic stomper, and Lizzy McAlpine hasn’t turned TikTok popularity onto chart success yet.
2023’s first offering is Gracie Abrams, whose debut Good Riddance lands after two EPs, This Is What it Feels Like and minor. Across twelve very consistent yet too homogenous tracks, Abrams touches on love, heartbreak, and loss, honing in on each one, but usually not with enough strength to pull it off. It’s surprising superstar producer Aaron Dessner couldn’t turn these songs around — his momentum and detail-oriented work pokes out in small places here (“Where do we go now?”, “I know it won’t work”), but the album doesn’t feel as stamped with his effort as past releases have been.
“Full machine” and “I should hate you” deal with the mental conflict of a previous partner abandoning the relationship, leading the narrator to overcompensate their thoughts. The latter is less sonically interesting, and written only marginally better. On “Full machine”, Abrams mixes metaphors (“I’m a rollercoaster / You’re a dead-end street”) and drums up momentum just to deflate it with a weak question (“But do you think we could talk?”), producing an effect both dizzying and unsatisfying.
When the backing tracks are this consistently minimalistic, the lyrics need to be a standout (think Phoebe Bridgers admitting she wants her partner to stick their fingers down her throat), and it feels as though Abrams just doesn’t have the depth yet. Two song titles, “Will you cry?” and “This is what the drugs are for” read more like an imitation of a grown-up — a teen getting high and then thinking their poetry speaks to the heart of human existence. Her songwriting is admirable when she’s vulnerable, and the honesty depicted on places like “Difficult” is hard to cultivate.
“Amelie”, a ballad about a girl of the same name, is finally a song about something other than a breakup, yet even it is underwritten. “I met a girl once / She sorta ripped me open / She doesn’t even know it”, she opens the song solely against a guitar. The outro, “Right now”, is lyrically fresh as well: a meditation on writing, nostalgia, existence, it’s one of the few moments on the album where it feels like she has something to say. “Pretty far from the ocean / Never thought that would hurt… What if my little brother / Thinks my leaving was wrong?” she begins and ends the second verse, touching on the ache one feels to break free from family.
Good Riddance is a middling set of songs whose highlights are hard to pick out. There’s talent here, just not used in a way where it calls immediate attention to itself: the whispering vocals and similar instrumentals all seem to just weigh the project down. The search for 2023’s next best up-and-comer continues.
Order Good Riddance by Gracie Abrams HERE
Looking for something new to listen to?
Sign up to our all-new newsletter for top-notch reviews, news, videos and playlists.